Somessa (“In social media”) -project 2014-2016
City of Vantaa
Students in primary and secondary education in the city of Vantaa (7-20-year-olds)
The goal of the Somessa -project was to expand the work done by school social workers onto online platforms used by young people and enable the workers to be reachable via the latest smartphone apps.
The goal of the work done by school social workers is to support the young people in their studies. School social workers often operate in several schools and the work is highly mobile. The work should concentrate more and more on preventive and community work, through which more students along with their parents can be reached.
In the social work unit of the city of Vantaa, school social work has been systematically developed since the summer of 2012. The work done in schools has been widely evaluated and improvements in reachability, lowering the threshold of contacting the workers and the dissemination of information has been improved. Because of changes in young people’s social media usage the city of Vantaa wanted to branch out to new social media platforms and enhance reachability through new apps.
During the project, several platforms were tried and evaluated. With the help of experts platforms and apps were selected as part of permanent practice when they were seen to serve the primary goals of school social work. With the use of smartphones, social workers can work much more effectively also when outside their offices in schools.
Youth participation has been central in the project, and an expert panel was convened from students of varying ages in different participating schools. The group was tasked to monitor the work done by the social workers, give them feedback and guidance to keep the work relevant to the needs of young people. They also provided input on current online developments and phenomena that workers should be aware of.
The expert panel of young people is central to implementing a successful, targeted practice. Technical equipment is of course essential. Also, the courage to step out of one’s comfort zone is required of the workers.
The practice has garnered almost entirely positive feedback. The feedback of the expert panel enabled targeting the work more efficiently. The young people have been empowered by their expert role.
Throughout the project, the expert students and project workers conducted a constant evaluation of the project. The viability of different apps and platforms as a part of school social work was also evaluated. A separate guidance group also assessed and guided the project.
Using smartphones and online platforms have increased reachability of school social work. Young people can easily reach workers even outside school hours. In our experience, the threshold of reaching out to social workers has lowered significantly, and thus early prevention and support for young people have increased. Using social media platforms has also enabled reaching larger target groups and building co-operation between schools and other services for the benefit of young people. Other units of the city of Vantaa have also been inspired by the example of this project.